Apr 232013


15th Annual Lavender Festival at Becker Vineyards

Join fellow Texas wine lovers for the 15th annual and best ever Becker Vineyards Lavender Festival. Sip and swirl with live music, artisans and lavender fields in bloom.

There will be lavender products, plants, vendors, cooking demos, guest speakers, culinary delights, concessions, wine tasting & tours, vintner luncheons & dinner, music and much more.

This event is complimentary but there is a $5.00 parking fee. 

In addition, you can chose to participate in luncheons scheduled on Saturday, April 27th and Sunday, April 28th.

Saturday Luncheon

The exclusive 15th annual Lavender Festival Vintner Luncheon, featuring Rails Cuisine. This delectable menu is expertly paired with Becker Wines. Click here for details of the Saturday luncheon gourmet fare and pricing.

Sunday Luncheon 

The exclusive 15th annual Lavender Festival Vintner Luncheon, features Alfreds Catering. Imbibe on the delectable menu expertly paired with Becker Wines.  Click here for details of the Sunday luncheon gourmet fare and pricing.

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At these luncheons listen to Dr. Richard & Bunny Becker recall how the lavender fields of Provence inspired them nearly 20 years ago.

This year we are pleased to announce a portion of our net proceeds will benefit our dear friend and candidate for 2013 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year Blake Miller! See Blake’s campaign and journey HERE

 Posted by at 8:39 pm
Apr 192013


Write Off the Vine: Texas Wine News – Texas Wine and Festivals Expanding

Amazon Expands Wine Sales to Texas

Peter Faricy, vice president for Amazon Marketplace, said, “We’re very excited for Texas wineries to share their highly-ranked selection with our millions of customers through the Amazon Wine store. Our customers tell us they enjoy our wine-country selection combined with the convenience of finding detailed wine information in one place. We want to connect customers with wineries around the country and provide a destination where they can learn about and purchase wines directly from wineries on the platform they trust.”

More: http://www.texaswineandtrail.com/amazon-expands-wine-sales-to-texas/

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2013 Hill Country Wine & Music Festival: Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing Evening – April 26th

Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing Evening with book signing by Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and writer/author Dr. Russell Kane will raise funds for the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts slated for construction in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the last year’s Hill Country Wine & Music Festivals first time wine and food pairing event (check here). It was a night of fine outdoor dining, live music and excellently paired Texas wines with Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and writer/author Dr. Russell Kane providing their interesting stories about what made the wine and food match.

More: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=9206

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Granbury Wine Walk April 26-27th

Situated in picturesque downtown Granbury, the 4th annual Wine Walk showcases Texas wine (15 wineries!), food, music and art at its finest. Stroll to outdoor booths for wine tasting and Texas cuisine; enjoy live music and a wine-themed art show and sale from the Lake Granbury Art Association (www.granburywinewalk.com).

WHEN: Wine Walk will be on Friday and Saturday, April 26-27, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. | “Sip & Savor” VIP kick-off Eventwill be on Thursday, April 25, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

More: http://www.texaswineandtrail.com/granbury-wine-walk-april-26-27th/

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Austin Food & Wine Festival April 27, 2013: Texas Wines – Ready for the Main Stage

The 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival is coming up fast and on Saturday morning April 27, 2013, a distinguished panel, a selection of gold medal wines and over a hundred participants will come together for a guided tasting at this year’s festival.

I will curate this tasting of Lone Star vino alongside premiere wine talent from the Lone Star state and beyond. This talent will include Austin’s advanced and master sommeliers Devon Broglie, Craig Collins and June Rodil, and FOOD & WINE Magazine’s Executive Wine Editor, Ray Isle. They will lend their expertise to this delicious discussion.

When commenting on his participation in this panel Ray Isle said, “As an expat Texan stuck in the wilds of New York City, the opportunity to come back to Austin and taste & talk about six great wines from my home state is one I look forward to pretty much all year long. The fact that I can run off with the leftover bottles and drink them with some worthwhile barbecue afterward doesn’t hurt either….Not that I’d ever break the rules and do that, of course.”

More: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=9102

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From the Ground Up – Texas Wine Industry

“It’s a matter of trying to find the right varieties of grapes that really grow in the right regions of the state,” says Texas A&M Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“When you look at a hybrid grape variety like we have here, Blanc Du Bois, it was bred by the University of Florida, and it has resistance to Pierce’s Disease and other fungal diseases, so it grows very well. It flourishes in this area, and makes very good wine,” says Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Vitaculture Program Specialist Fritz Westover Fritz Westover.

More: http://www.kbtx.com/home/headlines/From-the-Ground-Up—Texas-Wine-Industry-203760721.html

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Jeff Siegel – The Wine Curmudgeon

Wine Curmudgeon: Texas wine — 10 years after (part II)

Much has changed in the Hill Country wine business over the past decade that little has to do with the quality of the wine. The tasting rooms are more modern, more California in style and quite sophisticated; gone is the old “Mom and Pop, welcome to our dining room and have some wine” feel that was so common then.

Also new: tasting fees, which were unheard of a decade ago. Because, frankly, no one would have paid them. Consumers are also willing to pay top dollar for Texas wine. Few of the wines in the eight wineries I visited cost less than $20, but given the crowds, no one seemed to mind.

More and link to part 1: http://www.winecurmudgeon.com/my_weblog/2013/04/texas-wine-10-years-after-part-ii.html

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2013 Lost Pines Wine Fest Preview

The inaugural 2013 Lost Pines Wine Fest is Saturday, May 11, 2013 from noon – 6:00 p.m. at the Bastrop Brewhouse in Bastrop, Texas. All proceeds from this event will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bastrop County.

The festival is partnering with the Bastrop Brewhouse to establish a great event they hope will turn into an annual event. The communities of both Bastrop and Smithville have been very supportive of the event and they are encouraging people in the area and from afar to enjoy a nice afternoon tasting good wine, music, and food.

More: http://txwinelover.com/2013/04/2013-lost-pines-wine-fest-preview/

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Texas Wine Gal: Pontotoc, Texas

Ever heard of it? You will soon. Carl Money and his family, which owns Pontotoc Vineyard, have big plans to turn this small section of a beautiful Texas highway into a Texas wine destination.

Read the front-page San Antonio Express News story by Jennifer McInnis who provides a great overview of the winery, its history and what’s to come.

Our group headed to Pontotoc to see first-hand the property and hear from Carl about his plans. Carl, his wife Frances and his uncle Ronnie (who runs the vineyard with the detail of a hawk) graciously welcomed us to their place, even putting us up for the evening in their several-bedroom home on the property (which has terrific potential to be a future B&B).

More: http://texaswinegal.tumblr.com/


Denise Fraser (right) – Texas Wine Gal

 Posted by at 1:54 pm
Apr 162013

Raymond Haak displaying his award winning Blanc Du Bois grapevines

Texas Blanc Du Bois Four Ways in 2013

Haak Vineyards & Winery Blanc Du Bois Scored High at Tasting Panel Magazine

Two Blanc Du Bois wines from Haak Vineyards and Winery (Santa Fe, TX) scored high and was in the company of notable (and mainstream) white wine varieties from notable regions like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley according to wine ratings from Tasting Panel Magazine: Blue Reviews EXTRA! April 2013 by Anthony Dias Blue. His ratings were:

Sauvignon Blanc and Misc. Whites

  • Haak Vineyards & Winery 2012 Blanc du Bois, Dry Table Wine, Texas ($14). Score – 88; bright and crisp with dry citrus and fresh, tangy acidity similar to Sauvignon Blanc; silky, smooth and long.
  • Haak Vineyards Winery 2011 Blanc du Bois Reserve, Palacios Vineyard, Texas ($17). Score – 89; Smooth and fresh with dry, juicy citrus flavors and some hints of oak; fresh, balanced and complex with depth, charm and style.
  • Lake Chalice 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, The Nest, Marlborough ($15). Score 88; fresh and juicy with bright peach, citrus and grass; clean, racy and nervy with long, herbal notes. TWISTY
  • Sokol Blosser Winery 2011 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley ($18). Score – 90; bright, bracing and crisp with racy citrus and aromatics; lovely texture and balance; long, juicy and complete.

Congrats to Raymond Haak for pioneering this hybrid grape for Texas. Raymond and Jerry Watson in Cat Springs took this grape variety under their wing and nurturing it until it now had qualities and scoring ability to compare with other great growing regions and their well-identified wines.

Two Recent Blanc Du Bois Tastings

In the past week, I’ve had two tastings involving recent vintages of Texas Blanc Du Bois. The first was Lost Oak Winery Blanc Du Bois 2011 (2o12 vintage is now available). The 2011 commanded a silver medal at the2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and in my tastings offers a crisp punch of citrus and tropical fruit including Meyer lemon and guava.


The second Blanc Du Bois tasting was a new offering from the dynamic duo of Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett at William Chris Vineyards. It was their 2012 Blanc Du Bois made from grapes grown in Washington County Texas. This wine is soft and friendly with aromas of citrus blossom and fresh and crunchy Bartlett pears on the palate.


Messina Hof Winery’s New Release of Blanc Du Bois

Also, please don’t forget the new offering of 2012 Blanc Du Bois from Messina Hof Winery. I tasted this wine around the first of this year and it was a know out too. Click here to link to my review of the Messina Hof Blanc Du Bois. It was memorable both as a first for Messina Hof and as a refreshing Texas quaff accompanying a quiet moment on the deck overlooking the Texas Hill Country.


So, there a lot happening is Blanc Du Bois in Texas. It now reaching the point were it can be easy be compared to and judged comparably with mainstream white wines made from classic vinifera, and it’s also catching the interest of the larger wineries in the state. Remember, this is closest thing that we have to a quality native-Texas. It might not have been originated here, but it got here as fast as it could. Then, Texans made it into the fine wine that it’s become. No place else in the modern wine world can say that about Blanc Du Bois. It’s ours, so savor it and enjoy!








 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Apr 112013
Amazon customers can purchase directly from Texas wineries

Amazon.com, Inc. announced that customers can now place orders on Amazon Wine (amazon.com/wine) for delivery to Texas. Amazon Wine offers vast wine-country selection and allows customers to purchase directly from their favorite wineries. In addition, customers are now able to purchase directly from Texas wineries, who join the more than 350 wineries and 2,200 labels already available on Amazon Wine.

“Llano Estacado is the largest premium winery in Texas, so we’re in most stores statewide but we’re not outside the state. When customers try our wines they will be very pleasantly surprised,” said Mike Laughlin, tasting room manager for Llano Estacado, located in Lubbock, Texas. “Amazon.com is a one-stop shopping place. With Amazon Wine, we will be able to get in front of millions of new customers.”

Customers will now have access to highly-rated Texas wines and can explore prestigious selection from Messina Hof, Becker Vineyards, McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards and Llano Estacado, among others.

“The opportunity for Texas wineries to reach Amazon’s huge customer base is great exposure,” said Pat Brennan, owner and president for Brennan Vineyards, located in Comanche, Texas. “We’re a smaller winery that has distribution but just within a segment of Texas. We couldn’t be in every grocery shelf in the state. Adding our selection to Amazon Wine gives new customers in Texas and outside the state the opportunity to experience our product for the first time.”For more information go to Winebusiness.com: click here.

 Posted by at 3:57 pm
Apr 112013


Pedernales Cellars Wins Prestigious Grand Gold in its First-Ever French Wine Competition

Pedernales Cellars announced recently that its 2012 Viognier Reserve won the prestigious Grand Gold award – the French version of the Double Gold at American wine competitions – at the 2013 Concours International des Vins à Lyon (Lyon International Wine Competition), held this past Saturday.

Pedernales Cellars was the only American winery to win the Grand Gold – this year, a select group of 201 wines won the competition’s highest honor, from a record pool of more than 3200 entrants. The majority of winning wines in this year’s competition were French, though two other Texas wineries (Becker and Flat Creek) won silver and bronze medals respectively for their Viognier entries.

According to Pedernales Cellars co-owner, Dr. Julie Kuhlken, the winery was encouraged to enter the competition at the urging of Melba Allen, a French wine consultant with Oeno-com, who felt that Pedernales Cellars’ signature white varietal compared favorably to French versions of the wine. Pedernales Cellars then coordinated with Becker and Flat Creek to send the trio of Texas Viogniers across the Atlantic for consideration.

“It’s absolutely an honor to be awarded with a double gold in a major French wine competition,” said David Kuhlken, winemaker at Pedernales Cellars. “It speaks well to the evolution of Texas wine that a Texas-grown Viognier can be awarded at this level, at a competition held in the heart of the Rhone region where Viognier thrives.”

The 2012 Viognier Reserve will be available for sale on May 17; bottles and cases can be pre-ordered by calling or visiting the winery’s tasting room. Visitors to the winery can also sample the brand-new Spring 2013 nine-varietial tasting, highlighting white, red, and dessert wines that flourish in the Texas terroir, including the winery’s latest takes on Albarino, Tempranillo, and Moscato Giallo.

Pedernales Cellars will participate in two of the premier food festivals in Texas later this month — the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit, April 19-21, and the Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 26-28.

For more information about Pedernales Cellars, including tasting room hours, events, and wines available for online purchase, please revisit the newly-redesigned and relaunched website at pedernalescellars.com.


 Posted by at 3:34 pm
Apr 082013


2013 Hill Country Wine & Music Festival: Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing Evening – April 26th

Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing Evening with book signing by Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and writer/author Dr. Russell Kane will raise funds for the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts slated for construction in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the last year’s Hill Country Wine & Music Festivals first time wine and food pairing event (check here). It was a night of fine outdoor dining, live music and excellently paired Texas wines with Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and writer/author Dr. Russell Kane providing their interesting stories about what made the wine and food match.

Well, get ready for the 2013 Re-Match: Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing Evening with Book Signing (Friday 4/26/2013, 6:00-9:30pm) at the National Museum of the Pacific War’s Ruff Haus located at 205 Elk Street in Fredericksburg. The price of the event ($100 per person) includes one copy each of both Dr. Kane’s book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the vine, and Terry Thompson Anderson’s book Texas Hill Country – A food and wine lover’s paradise. Books will be personalized and autographed. Now, that’s a heck of deal!

The event will be hosted by Terry and Russ who will guide you through an enjoyable evening, tasting fine wines and delectable foods from Texas. This will be an opportunity to taste a diversity of wines and styles that are making a wine for Texas and distinguishing it from other major wine producing states. Wines will include:

  • Luscious reds like Woodrose Tempranillo, Texas Hills Barbera, Torre di Pietra Petite Syrah,
  • Crisp whites and Rosé such as Hilmy Cellars Rosé of Tempranillo, Pedernales Cellars Albariño, Duchman Vermentino
  • Flavorful dessert wines such as Messina Hof Muscato Mistella and Fredericksburg Winery Orange Muscat.

Seven courses of wine and gourmet food pairings will be served. The wine and food pairing menu is available online in PDF at: click here for menu – 2013 HCWMF Menu.

The two acclaimed Texas authors have collaborated to pair wines from Messina Hof Winery, Texas Hills Vineyard, Hilmy Cellars, Pedernales Cellars, Duchman Family Winery, Woodrose Winery, Fredericksburg Winery and Torre di Pietra Vineyards with tapas-style recipes from Terry’s book.

The Festival’s first silent auction will be held in conjunction in this event.   Please purchase your tickets now as attendance is limited.

Where: National Museum of the Pacific War’s Ruff Haus, 205 Elk Street, Fredericksburg, Texas

When: April 26, 2013 – 6:00pm to 9:30pm

Go to www.hillcountrywineandmusic.com for more event and festival information and tickets.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm
Apr 062013


Pontotoc Vineyard 2011 San Fernando Academy: A Fusion of All the Senses

I’d tasted this wine once with winemaker Don Pullum during his visit to our hill country cottage for dinner. After that, I was captivated and knew that I needed to experience it again. The 2011 San Fernando Academy is a red blend made by Don with oversight by Pontotoc Vineyard owner Carl Money. But, to merely call it a red blend is an understatement. Like several of Don’s winemaking efforts that I’ve enjoyed in the past (and still do on occasion, if I’ve been disciplined enough to cellar a bottle or two), they are more works of art using flavors and aromas from a multiplicity of grape varieties in place of an artist’s pallet of colors.

On my second occasion to appreciate this wine, I knew that it needed special accompaniment; something that paired with both its breadth and depth of characteristics. I also knew that I needed to allow the wine time to compose and configure itself. So, I opened the bottle about five hours before consumption.

Upon my first swirl and sniff, the 2011 San Fernando Academy brought back precise memories of past Pullum exploits.

One in particular was a special cuvée Don made from his own Mason County Akashic Vineyard grapes called L’Évier (French for the “kitchen sink”). Why that name? You probably guessed it…it had so many different varieties of grapes in it that the only thing missing was the proverbial kitchen sink. Impressed so much with this wine as a statement about what Texas wines could do, I took a bottle to France for a tasting with a renowned winemaker in Gigondas. [For the details of the story and Don’s reaction, you can read it in my book, The Wineslinger Chronicles (click here).]


Winemaker Don Pullum

Now, back to the Pontotoc Vineyard 2011 San Fernando Academy. The blend of grapes used in this wine was: 27% Cabernet Franc, 26% Sangiovese, 16% Mourvedre, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Carignan, 6% Tempranillo, 3% Grenache and 1% Syrah. This blend was something that Don called “somewhat opportunistic, but it all came together very well.” Excluding the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, the rest of the bunch were like an old world trek around the Mediterranean: Sangiovese derived from Italy, Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache from the south of France, and Tempranillo from Spain.

The taste of this wine brought a variety of dominant red and black fruit characteristics including red plum, crisp raspberries, sweet black cherries and luscious blackberries on the nose and palate. Then, came herbal nuances of thyme, tarragon and clove followed even later by myriad mysterious notes of black olive, rhubarb, a hint of smoke and the piquant of dry dusty soil.

Realizing what was going on as this wine intermingled with my senses, I grasped the need to pair this wine with equally interesting cuisine. So, I decided to go back to the Mediterranean roots of this wine to take my own culinary trek. In doing so, I prepared a Mediterranean dish that employed a dark meat chicken braise as my canvass. I started with vegetable broth and added Roma tomatoes from Italy, Herbes du Provence from France, garlic and anchovies from Spain. Then, I doubled around the southern shore of the Mediterranean to Morocco for lemon and a light touch of cinnamon ending up back in Italy for an additional dash of oregano just as the dish was finished in the oven.

As my wife and I sat down at the table to enjoy this multicultural fusion of wine and food elements, I only then understood that we could go one step further and end up with a total sensual immersion. Those of you that are of my vintage will remember listening to the Righteous Brothers recording of “That Loving Feeling” and feeling lost in what producer Phil Spector’s called his “wall of sound”. It’s reverberation in your brain seemed big enough to envelop your body and penetrate down into your soul. I scanned Pandora and played this song while we enjoyed our food and wine to complete what became the fusion of our senses: a joyous glass of varietal character, a plate of Mediterranean flavor, and our all-encompassing wall of sound.

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Father Donnie, Son Carl & Uncle Ronnie Money

But, why commemorate the academy with this wine?

The Money Family is a fifth generation Texas farming family and takes great pride in bringing the fruit of their labor to the table. Carl first learned about viticulture while studying abroad in the wine district of Vienna, Austria, then imagined establishing a vineyard in his native Texas. In 2003, Carl purchased an historic German Estate in Pontotoc, where he and his family began restoring the sandstone farm house and clearing the fields with the vision of planting a vineyard. His dream culminated in the initial planting of five acres of Tempranillo. Carl became familiar with this Spanish grape variety while teaching law in Spain and rightfully thought it could handle the growing conditions in Texas that are often compared to those of Tempranillo’s native Spain.


Pontotoc Vineyards Tempranillo

After establishing his vineyard and refurbishing the farm house, Carl and his wife Frances purchased the turn-of-the-century sandstone buildings in Pontotoc, including what had been the grocery store, hardware store, post office, barber shop, and movie theater, with the idea of making the town into the center of viticulture and enology in the Northern Hill Country.  The five buildings form historic downtown Pontotoc and stand facing the ruin of San Fernando Academy.

The wine from Carl Money’s Pontotoc Vineyard commemorates the San Fernando Academy. Like Pontotoc Vineyard, it was founded in Pontotoc, Texas. The academy was established in 1882 in this frontier outpost by interested citizens of the local community. It likely derived its name from the nearby San Fernando creek. The academy’s course of study was intended to lead toward a Teachers Certificate. A total of about 200 students were enrolled during the academy’s tenure and it drew many people to the area interested in education.


The old farmhouse estate acquired by Carl Money

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Pontotoc Vineyard 2011 San Fernando Academy Awards:

Top 10 Texas Red Wines of 2012, Texas Monthly Magazine

Bronze Medal, 2013 Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition

Bronze Medal, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition

Silver Medal, 2013, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

 Posted by at 2:28 pm
Apr 022013


Newsom Grape Day 2013: It’s Game Time Around Here

Its nearly time for the annual Grape Day at Newsom Vineyards in Plains, Texas. Dr. Ed Hellman from Texas AgriLife has put together a great program including notables such as Dr. Keith Striegler (Flint Ridge Winegrowing Services), Greg Bruni (Executive Winemaker and VP at Llano Estacado Winery) and himself. There may also be  a legislative speaker for lunch. When I asked the organizer Neal Newsom if things were ready, he said simply, “It’s pretty much game time around here!” And, it better be as the event is schedule for April 26th.

There will also a catered BBQ lunch. Its all free but they are hoping to get donations to offset the cost of lunch.

I’ve been to at least a couple of Neal Newsom’s Grape Days before and they are great networking opportunities with the who’s who of Texas winegrowing. I’d reckon that if you added up all the years of Texas vineyard experience on hand from old timers to newbies, there will be a over a 150 years of experience to suck in. That would get you back to the days when phylloxera struck down the French and European vineyards and when Texas native rootstock road-in in T.V. Munson’s rucksack to save the day. You never know who might show up.


Nolan Newsom, Kim & Doc McPherson, Bobby Cox

I asked Neal Newsom how long he’s been holding his Grape Day meetings like this one. Neal said, “I’m not really sure when we started, but it must have been about 1989 with Dr. George Ray McEachern’s and Dr Lipe’s help. They were just turn-row meetings originally. As I recall, Mom cooked for everyone!”

Neal Newsom, Newsom Vineyards

On the benefits of attending, Neal added, “It’s the best place to network if you’re thinking about grape growing or winemaking. It’s also the best place to be if you’re already in production. There will be lots of folks looking to buy fruit and others looking for wineries to purchase theirs. Most of Texas grapes comes from within 60 miles from here, so it’s the best way to see lay of the land, so to speak. You’ll get a good feel for what commercial production is like.”


Cliff Bingham, Bingham Family Vineyards

To participate in Newsom Grape Day, RSVP to Neal Newsom for the lunch: neal@newsomvineyards.com

As they said in the TWGGA announcement for this event…”So come spit in the dirt and see how its done in West Texas. If you are the least bit interested in making wine or grapes [in Texas], this is the place to be.”

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Newsom Grape Day Schedule

April 26, 2013

8:00 – 9:00 Registration

9:00 – 9:15 Welcome – Neal Newsom

9:15 – 10:15 Mechanized Balanced Cropping: A Strategy to Reduce Crop Loss from Adverse Weather Conditions – Dr. Keith Striegler, Flint Ridge Winegrowing Services

10:15 – 10:45 Break & Vineyard Equipment

10:45 – 11:15 Clarification of Unfermented White Juice Using Flotation – Greg Bruni, Llano Estacado Winery

11:45 – 12:00 Newsom Scholarship Recipients

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 1:30 Tempranillo on the High Plains – Neal Newsom, Newsom Vineyards

1:30 – 2:15 Alternative Grape Varieties – Dr. Ed Hellman, Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas Tech Univ.

2:15 – 3:15 A Viticulturist’s Perspective on Grapevine Virus Problems and Solutions – Dr. Keith Striegler, Flint Ridge Winegrowing Services

 Posted by at 2:02 pm
Apr 012013


Austin Food & Wine Festival April 27, 2013: Texas Wines – Ready for the Main Stage

The 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival is coming up fast and on Saturday morning April 27, 2013, a distinguished panel, a selection of gold medal wines and over a hundred participants will come together for a guided tasting at this year’s festival.

I will curate this tasting of Lone Star vino alongside premiere wine talent from the Lone Star state and beyond. This talent will include Austin’s advanced and master sommeliers Devon Broglie, Craig Collins and June Rodil, and FOOD & WINE Magazine’s Executive Wine Editor, Ray Isle. They will lend their expertise to this delicious discussion.


Devon Broglie, Craig Collins, June Rodil and Ray Isle

When commenting on his participation in this panel Ray Isle said, “As an expat Texan stuck in the wilds of New York City, the opportunity to come back to Austin and taste & talk about six great wines from my home state is one I look forward to pretty much all year long. The fact that I can run off with the leftover bottles and drink them with some worthwhile barbecue afterward doesn’t hurt either….Not that I’d ever break the rules and do that, of course.”

My return quip was, “Ray, my bet is that with the crowd of Texas tasters we will draw at this event, I’d be surprised if there will be any wine left. Last year our Texas wine tasting was on Sunday morning, a less than optimal time slot; however, we filled the tent with over a hundred people. Many more were relegated to standing room only and could only watch us sip and savor the fine Texas wines.”

Want to know more about last year’s performance of Texas wines at the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Festival? Click here.

Like last year, the real stars of the show in our guided tasting are the wines. All are Texas bred, made from Texas-grown grapes. There will be no imposters; all are Texas appellation wines. The Texas wines in the tasting are all recently announced gold medal winners from this year’s prestigious Dallas Morning News – Texsom Wine Competition:

As you can see, Texas does not produce the standard California set of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Many of the wines in Texas are made from grapes that originate from the climes of Mediterranean countries (sometimes). These include smoky Tempranillo from Spain, inky-dark Tannat from the extremes of the French Pyrenees, and floral white wines and blends made from Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne from the south of France.

But wait, there’s more.

The extreme flexibility of Texas wine production is highlighted by a Cabernet Sauvignon made with alternative techniques perfected by South American winemakers involving cold soaking and extended maceration that extract pure fruit essences and natural grape tannins without the need for oak aging. Finally, our tasting with finish with a real surprise: a quality Texas Riesling with a crisp, off-dry expression of citrus and honey. It’s going to be like a global wine tour and bypassing California. So, get ready.

As the festival’s promo says “Everything is bigger in Texas, even the wine scene!” So, get registered for the Austin Food & Wine Festival (click here), then mosey on down to the Cedar Tent at Auditorium Shores & Republic Square Park to enjoy a celebration of Texas’s best wines that can now share the main stage with the finest foods and wines around.


Our panelists at the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Fest – Texas wine panel

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Also, don’t forget to check out the Festival’s Instagram contest (click here).

 Posted by at 9:26 pm
Mar 292013

Chef Olivier Ciesielski (photo via L’Olivier Restaurant)

Duchman Winery Dinner at Houston’s L’Olivier Restaurant: High Time for Texas Wines on the Gourmet Scene

A splash of Vermentino on a knee and hearty conversation around well-matched gourmet food and excellent wines made for a lovely evening this week at Houston’s French-inspired, Montrose-area L’Olivier Restaurant. But what if I told you this wasn’t a French wine affair, but rather a Texas wine dinner would you think any different of it?

Well, the consensus if those in attendance was you shouldn’t.  It was a delight. Famed Chef Olivier Ciesielski did his usual best; taking the finest of European cuisine and pairing it with the wine flair from a quite different part of the universe – the world of Texas wines.


More specifically, the wines were provided by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. Winery owners and fellow Houstonians Stan and Lisa Duchman attended and dined and conversed with friends, associates and the restaurant’s faithful patrons, some of which kept asking if their first wine was a Chardonnay.

OK, after hearing this, I had to take the bait and resurrected the comments I made previously in another winery’s tasting room who was pouring their Texas Viognier to another California Chardonnay drinker.

While on the restaurant’s patio during the reception, I said, “Try it, you’ll like it. It IS Texas Chardonnay! It just happens to be made from Viognier, a grape that does as well here in Texas as Chardonnay does in California.” With that, I saw a cringe from Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly. However, in a flash and with a shared wink, we both smiled knowing that this is how Texas wines will gain new followers…one California Chardonnay drinker at a time.


Winemaker, Dave Reilly  (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

During the evening, the Duchmans and Reilly provided point-by-point commentary on their wines along side Chef Olivier’s impeccable gourmet cuisine. On the patio,tThe hand-passed Hors D’Oeuvres accompanied the 2011 Duchman Viognier that showed a lighter, less aggressive style than found in many other Viogniers. Dave used one simple word to describe what he was after in this wine: “finesse”. Implicit in this statement is his working with properly harvested fruit (not over-ripe) and his personal style of providing a light hand in the winery, just as his mentor Mark Penna taught.


We settled into our seats in the dim light of the restaurant. The serious food and wine pairing began with the Chef’s English Pea Ravioli teamed with the Duchman 2011 Vermentino, pairing herbal characteristics of both while also playing on the counterpoint of fatty pancetta and the white wine’s crisp acidity. Vermentino is a grape widely planted in Sardinia and in the Liguria region of Italy, but this slow ripening white grape has found a new home in Texas. This has mainly come through the initial efforts from Duchman Winery and Texas high plains winegrowers whose efforts have gained critical acclaim at international wine competitions and even from Oz Clarke during his wine sipping trip to Texas.

Next came a new Duchman release: the 2011 Tempranillo accompanied with a sliced veal chop, potato cake and morel sauce. Each was absurdly good separately and also incredibly fine together. Borrowing from Dave’s initial one word statement, this pairing could be characterized simply by the description: finesse on the plate, in the glass and in the mouth.


I motioned to Dave to come over and have a seat beside me while I was concentrating on his Tempranillo (this being my first taste of this wine).

I said, “Dave, you know…I find that the people that pointlessly bad-mouth Texas wines the worst are Pinot Noir drinkers. They typically can’t find any Texas wines that satisfy their need for a light/medium bodied, red-fruit dominant wine with crisp acidity escorted with hints of smoke and earthy characteristics.”

I followed this with, “Dave, this Tempranillo’s got it all: red fruit, medium body, crisp acidity, and a light earthy smokiness on the finish. It could score big with that group of yet unsatisfied and potential Texas wine drinkers.”

Over hearing this, Stan Duchman said, “We had our Dolcetto (another well-awarded Duchman red wine) in a blind tasting with one of our tasting groups that was pouring high end Pinots one night. Our wine showed amazingly well, something that later surprised everybody at the tasting when the wines were revealed. Interestingly, the only person that correctly identified our wine out of the cast of high end wines featured that night was my wife Lisa.”

Finishing off the evening of fine dining were a Roquefort terrine and berry compote paired with the Duchman Canto Felice, a mildly sweet red wine. Who said, sweet red wines, can’t be serious? Nobody here. The pairing teamed up sweet red fruit characteristics on the plate and in the glass. The fifth and final course was the Chef’s strawberry soup with a personal favorite, Duchman 2009 Muscat, both of which were bright, lively, tart yet sweet.

– — – — –


Stan and Lisa Duchman (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

For more information on tours, tastings and events at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood TX, click here.

For menu and reservations for Chef Olivier Ciesielski’s L’Olivier Restaurant in the Montrose-area near city center Houston, click here.


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